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I answered a question on a Q&A site. I got a message of gratitude from the questioner.

She said the following sentence to me.

Thank you! I didn’t believe someone would actually answer to such a long question

So I responded like this:

no problem! hoping it'll help you.

I said "it'll help you" without thinking much. After this responding, I wondered if that "it" works properly.

I used "it" to indicate "my answer" because "it" refers to what both a speaker and a listener know, so I thought "it" can be used on that rule.

However, I'm not sure but I think I should have used "my answer" instead of "it".

Please tell me if this use of "it" is correct.

  • I think it's really just OP's opinion that it specifically refers to my answer. I'd be as likely to understand it as referencing the fact that I (the respondent) did (actually answer such a long question). Suppose instead of No problem!, the reply had started with It was nothing! We wouldn't understand that as meaning My answer was nothing. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jan 9 '18 at 16:00
  • @FumbleFingers Thank you. As you say, "No problem" could make a listener focus on the fact that I answered such a long qestion. So the "it" couldn't be understood as "my answer". Your opinion is also very helpful. – Stud Jan 9 '18 at 16:20
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Yes, it's fine. I'm sure any reasonable person reading the conversation understands that "it" refers to "my answer".

@FumbleFingers points out that if you had said, "It was nothing", "it" would presumably not refer to "my answer". Which is true. I'd take it to mean "the effort required to provide you with an answer. Of course "it was nothing" would be a polite exaggeration, but that's not the point here.

But I don't see this as being an issue. A pronoun often requires an intelligent comprehension of the conversation to interpret. If I said, "I spilled the cleaning chemical and it stained my shirt", and you replied, "Yes, it is very caustic", I'd understand "it" to refer to the chemical because it makes sense to talk about the chemical being caustic and that being a reason for it to cause a stain. It wouldn't make much sense to talk about a shirt being caustic. But if you said, "That's too bad. It was new", "it" could refer to either the chemical or the shirt. Do you mean it's too bad that the shirt was damaged because it was a new shirt, or it's too bad that I spilled the chemical because it was a new bottle? (I'd probably guess the shirt, but if we had just been talking about how expensive the chemical was, maybe not, etc.)

  • Thank you, Jay. Your explaining with examples is very helpful for me. I may also understand the "it" of the question in the end as "the shirt". – Stud Jan 9 '18 at 17:20
  • Technically, "it" has to refer to the OP's act of answering, rather than the answer, but those are effectively the same. – Acccumulation Jan 9 '18 at 19:05

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